Paul Belcher, 55, said he has been promoting gospel concerts for 38 years, but that’s still more than a decade shy of the time one of the groups at Saturday’s “camp meeting” at Memorial Auditorium has spent in the business.
The Inspirations got their start in Bryson City, N.C., in 1964 and have been touring in various incarnations since. Still at the piano and behind the microphone as emcee is founder Martin Cook, a member of the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame and a Marvin Norcross Award winner.
Cook was a high-school chemistry teacher when he put four students together as the Inspirations Quartet and hit the road. Ultimately, The Inspirations became Southern gospel music’s best-selling group.
Saturday, The Inspirations will be joined by four other acts forging longtime careers in music ministry: Heirline from Jasper, Tenn.; The McKameys of Clinton, Tenn.; Michael Combs, of Todd, N.C.; and The Greesons, based in Chickamauga, Ga.
“All of these groups are just unbelievable,” Belcher said Tuesday by phone from his home in Tellico Plains, Tenn. “Any one of them could steal the show Saturday.”
Booking all five acts, he said, reminds him of having a full plate at breakfast.
“Bacon and eggs are good together,” he said, “but if you add biscuits and gravy and jelly, it’s a great combination.”
IF YOU GO
What: Gospel camp meeting, featuring The Inspirations, Heirline, The McKameys, Michael Combs and The Greesons.
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Memorial Auditorium, 399 McCallie Ave.
Admission: $20 reserved main floor and lower level, $15 upper-balcony general admission; free for children 12 and younger in upper balcony only.
Phone: 642-8497 or 423-253-7900.
Websites: www.ChattanoogaOnStage.com, www.paulbelcher.com.
Note: Tickets also available at Sonshine Christian Bookstore, 1841 Battlefield Parkway, Fort Oglethorpe, 706-861-7675.
ABOUT THE ACTS
The Inspirations: Over more than four decades, they’ve released more than 70 recordings, producing such hits as “What a Wonderful Time,” “Jesus Is Coming Soon,” “Touring That City” and “When I Wake Up To Sleep No More.”
Heirline: Frontman Ernie Dawson writes much of the group’s material. His best-known songs include “My Mama’s Prayer,” “He’s Alive,” “Lord Send Me a Refuge” and “She’s Not Crying Anymore.” He and son Eric co-wrote “Jesus Has Conquered the Grave,” which became the group’s first Top 10 song.
The McKameys: The latest project from this family group is “Joy in the Journey.” Their standards include “I’ve Made Up My Mind,” “Roll That Burden on Me,” “Who Put the Tears” and “God on the Mountain.”
Michael Combs: He was working for a phone company and had never sung publicly when he was called into full-time music evangelism. Among his songs are “Raise the Roof,” “Almost Home” and “Going Fishing.”
The Greesons: Chart successes for this family group include “I Shall Return,” “When God Shows Up,” “Sinner’s Prayer,” “When I Get There” and “Coming After Me.” Their latest single is “I’m So Saved.”
Lisa Denton is deputy features editor and content editor of Current. She previously was a lifestyle, entertainment and region reporter/pod leader for The Chattanooga Times, which she joined in 1983. Lisa is from Sale Creek and holds an associate’s degree in journalism from Chattanooga State Community College. Contact Lisa at 423-757-6281 or firstname.lastname@example.org.